Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro on Wednesday released the Government Accountability Office’s second ever report on the underrepresentation of Latinos in media.
While presenting the report’s findings to the National Press Club, Castro gave a glimpse into his upbringing, explaining how he noticed a dearth of Latinos on screen as a child growing up in a predominantly Latino community.
“The faces and the places that I saw on screen back then, and really since then, hardly ever matched the reality around me on the West Side of San Antonio,” the Texas lawmaker said.
But representation concerns extend "across platforms,” including in news and book publishing, Castro added.
The path to properly portraying Latinos in media clearly requires more of the media to actually be of the community
“Latinos make up nearly 20% of our nation, and our contributions have shaped this country’s development and prosperity for centuries," he said, "but despite our numbers and growing power, our stories have been systematically excluded from Hollywood and the American media, which are the dominant image-creating and narrative-defining institutions in our nation."
That invisibility, he noted, “helps create a void in narrative — a black hole — where stereotypes and bigotry can fester.”
The first report, released in September 2021, found that Latinos who are employed in the media industry disproportionately work in service jobs, making up 22 percent of service workers. In contrast, Latinos hold only 4 percent of senior and executive management positions in media.
The second report comes at a critical time for American media, as conservatives nationwide look to ban discussions about Latino history from school curricula and demonize migrants from Latin American countries.
The disturbing push on the right to denigrate Latino people and media — whether through opposition, complicity or overt racism — is playing a significant role in minority representation.
The GAO used data from the census and federal employment registries to assess Latino representation in media from 2010 to 2019 and determine what companies can do to improve upon the paltry numbers revealed Wednesday.
Here are some key findings:
- From 2010 to 2019, Hispanic workers were underrepresented in the media industry compared to their representation in the rest of the workforce. Specifically, the report says that in 2019, “Hispanics made up an estimated 12 percent of workers in the media industry compared to an estimated 18 percent of workers in the rest of the workforce (workers in all industries outside of the media industry, combined).”
- Hispanic representation in media jobs increased by only 1 percentage point — from 11 to 12% — from 2010 to 2019.
- Looking at Hispanic workers across all industries from 2015 to 2019, found media jobs ?? FOUND?? were among the least likely positions held by Hispanic Americans. Thirty-three percent of Hispanic workers held agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting jobs over that period. The least likely roles for Hispanic workers were in the tech sector and “professional, scientific and technical services.”
- The study showed disparities between Hispanic women and men working in media. Hispanic men held just 7% of media jobs from 2015 to 2019. Hispanic women held a paltry 3% of media jobs in that time. Over this period, writers and authors — that is, people who tend to have the most direct control over media narratives — were the least likely to be Hispanic. In total, just 7% of writers and authors during that span were Hispanic.
- As noted in the first report, the most common jobs held by Hispanic people in media were in service work — like food service, for example — and as “craft workers,” which includes jobs like plumbing and painting. About 19% of Hispanic people working in media from 2014 to 2018 performed “service work,” while another 15% served as “craft workers.”
The report points to a number of issues underlying the media’s insufficient representation of Latinos. Those include lack of diversity among corporate decision-makers, who — consciously or unconsciously — discriminate. The report also says financial barriers, like low pay and the high cost of living in large media markets, have contributed to poor Latino representation in media. And it said barriers in access to media-related education and difficulty joining tightly knit professional networks are culprits, too.
The path to properly portraying Latinos in the media clearly requires more of the media to actually be of the community. And, though it may be hard to admit, doing that is going to require the industry’s mostly white power brokers, who’ve long driven its narratives, to relinquish their overwhelming control.